Big Bear is beautiful! This is definitely one of the benefit of living in LA- being able to get up to the beautiful mountains so easily. I believe that summer and winter are the two prime seasons for Big Bear, and you’ll find that reflected in the pricing for accommodation.
So, step 1 for Big Bear on a Budget: Go in fall (Autumn for normal people). It’s a beautiful time of year with the colours changing, cool but not cold and nice and quiet. It just so happened that the few days we went up for were 37 degrees in LA (about 100 in Fahrenheit), so this made it my first ever ‘escape the heat trip.’ Because it was off season we got an amazing price for hotel right on the lake, Marina Resort, for about $60 a night. Bargain.
Step 2: Take advantage of the reasonable priced food prices. As you will have worked out by any of my previous posts, I love going out for food. But this trip was about being on a budget, so rather than heading into some of the more expensive restaurants that look great, we stuck to the good value ones.
Saucy Mamas: This is what I picture when I picture an American pizza parlour with a hipster twist to it. The staff are really friendly and they have some great neon’s which I love. We went for a big bowl of spaghetti bolognes with garlic bread and what ended up pretty much being a supreme pizza. The food was good. Spaghetti tasted like one your mum makes and the pizza had good ingredients, and a lot of cheese. Normally I’m a fine Italian crust like what you get in Italy rather than an American crust but it was nicely done. Plus we had leftovers for breakfast!
Grizzly Manor Café : This little cafe is the breakfast king of Big Bear. Being off season and during the week we manged to get a seat with only a 5 minute wait- but expect more normally. It doesn’t look particularly special and the menu has a good diner menu feel to it, but wait, you will not be disappointed. The portions are MASSIVE and the food itself is done so well. Al went for a chicken fried steak smothered in gravy and I had a scramble. Again, the pictures don’t show just how amazing it was. Normally I don’t like the hash because they taste oily but this was probably the best I’ve ever had. And then there’s the pancakes. You will be required to order one even when you order other dishes (this is my opinion not the rules of the cafe). The pancakes are huge- the size of a dinner plate. So, so fluffy and jammed pack full of blueberries.
The Lumberjack Cafe: further into Big Bear town this one isn’t bad but not as good as Grizzly Manor Cafe. Al had the pork chops and I went for the chilaquiles. They were ok but a it was disappointing after the amazing breakfast from the day before.
Big Bear Brewing Company: The food looked pretty good in here. We just went in for an after hike beer but I couldn’t resist the apple cake. Once I pushed that big pile of cream off (American seem obsessed with huge mounds of cream) it did not disappoint. Big chunks of apples and a nice light spiced taste.
Step 3: BBQ! There is nothing better than a bbq by the water. Our hotel had them on site to use so we headed down to Vons along the lake for supplies.
Step 4: Spend time in nature. You’re at the lake! You don’t need fancy activities, go hiking. There are some great trails of varying lengths and skill level. You’ll need to get a parking pass for some of them but they will only cost you $5 and the money goes to the upkeep so that’s pretty good. We went for the Pine Knot trail which was gorgeous. It goes up quite high but doesn’t feel too steep.
We attempted a walk around the lake but it’s not really set up for it. There are a lot of private properties so you will find yourself accidentally trespassing (while doing this, it is a good idea to sneak like a ninja so you are less conspicuous). There is a lake path on the side of the lake that the visitors center is on which would be a much smarter choice.